(Image courtesy of Ayelen Alonso)
A Time for Renewal
Ibiza’s almond groves are currently in bloom, one of the most picturesque moments of the year. They can be seen all over the island but particularly at Pla de Corona in the village of Santa Inés, up in the north-west of Ibiza. The valley is particularly spellbinding when witnessed at night, under the light of the full moon.
However, the resplendent pinkish-white flowers are not as plentiful as they once were. Having a life cycle of only 70 years, the almond trees need to be replaced with new saplings. But, since the advent of tourism, that’s not been happening as often as it should. Between 2010 and 2015, around 30% of our groves were lost. Since then, many more trees have died off and no longer produce flowers or fruits. Almond growers face several challenges including drought (as witnessed in 2016), aging tree population and therefore lower defences against climatic factors, overseas price competition.
It’s important to remember that the almond trees have more than just a decorative function. As well as being pretty to look at, they perform a vital environmental role. Often planted on terraced hillsides or surrounded by stone walls, they help to prevent soil erosion and water run-off. Their leaves, fruits and branches provide food and shelter for local wildlife. And of course, like all trees, they act as a carbon sink, helping to absorb harmful CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.
Restoring the almond groves
To help remedy the situation, we at IbizaPreservation have dedicated €50,000 towards efforts to plant around 750 new trees, both in the Pla de Corona and at Cas Secorrat, an organic farm near Buscastell. Separately, another 800 trees have been planted at Can Escarrer in San Mateo. These pilot projects, led by committed farmers and supported on a technical level by the local organic producers’ association (APAEEF) and the local government (Consell d’Eivissa), are testing out a number of almond varieties, as well as different soil and water conditions. The progress of the trees is being monitored and the information shared throughout the farming community in order to replicate the programmes across the island and help restore the iconic groves to their former glory. In the past week, an additional two pilot projects were announced. The Associació de Vesins de Corona will be planting 230 almond trees at Can Batle in Pla de Corona, Sta Ines. And the San Antonio Farmers’ Cooperative is sponsoring the planting of a further 500 almond trees at Can Tomaseta in San Antonio.
A hard nut to crack
The Ibiza almond is highly prized for its sweetness and was traditionally intended for luxury sweets. These include Panellets (typically made for the Catholic holiday All Saints Day) or Salsa de Navidad (an almond Christmas sauce), being sought after local products. But, although almonds have been a part of Ibiza’s heritage for centuries, it can be surprisingly hard these days to come by nuts actually grown on the island. Put that down to stiff competition from mass producers in places like California and even other parts of Spain, where yields are greater and costs are lower.
In a bid to counter the low price received from the wholesale of almonds to overseas food companies, local authorities believe that consumer-focused initiatives are indispensable to increase revenue. Promoting local delicacies such as the “Aixo Si Panellets” campaign of 2020 will help to maintain a decent return for almond producers. Moreover, in order to help raise Ibiza’s almond output, we at IbizaPreservation invested in a shell-cracking machine for the San Antonio farmers’ cooperative, meaning the fruits can now be de-shelled more quickly and easily, improving margins for the growers.
Almonds are incredibly versatile and can be eaten raw (once soaked overnight) or can be made into almond milk, almond ricotta or other vegan cheese. They can also be turned into marzipan or be used in tart shells or replace flour in cakes. And of course they can be toasted and served with any savoury or sweet dish. As well as making a host of delicious treats, they are highly nutritious and packed full of antioxidants, protein, fibre and healthy fats, plus vitamins and minerals. Ibiza’s almonds are even more so, as they are grown with less water and are more concentrated and sweeter.
Therefore, by buying and eating these locally grown goodies, you are contributing to your own health as well as the recovery of one of the island’s most traditional and iconic crops. If you would like to get your hands on Ibiza almonds, while supporting local farmers, you can do so by visiting the San Antonio Farmers’ Cooperative (Monday to Saturday) or Ecofeixes in Blancadona Ibiza (Wednesday evening / Thursday morning).